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Have you ever wondered why Americans use the spellings honor, neighbor, valor, while the British use honour, neighbour, valour? Has a computer spellchecker or human copy-editor ever stopped your wingèd prose as it travelled (traveled) up through the clouds of Parnassus and subjected it to a tedious extra round of labour (labor), changing cheque to […]more
As we saw in our last post in the series on bulldozer, some astonishing metaphors can underlie the names of our tools. But the process can work in both directions as tools themselves can supply the metaphor. Such is the case for rehearse. Today, we mainly use the word rehearse for ‘practicing a play, piece […]more
We just can’t seem to outrun the demons on What in the Word?! In our last two posts for the series, we saw how the chemical elements cobalt and nickel had some unlikely goblins buried away in their roots. Here, we’re moving on from the periodic table, but our focal word is hiding a surprisingly […]more
All English speakers learn their ABCs at an early age, and remain quite confident that they know all 26 letters of the English alphabet. However, Old English had a few extra letters that tend to get left out nowadays (as well as using some of the ones we’re familiar with in a slightly different way). […]more
Anglo-Saxon literature is full of advice on how to live a good life. Many Anglo-Saxon poems and proverbs describe the characteristics a wise person should strive to possess, offering counsel on how to treat others and how to obtain and use wisdom in life. Here are some words in Old English (the name we give […]more
As Peter Jackson celebrates his birthday this week many Tolkien fans across the world are eagerly awaiting the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, due to hit the cinemas in December. To many, The Hobbit is the clumsier younger brother of The Lord of the Rings, less epic and with a Middle Earth that […]more